Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freelance Genuises; Blog, blog, blog

There's a neat cartoonist blog that links to a very interesting documentary on cartoon genuis, John Callahan. Callahan was a big influence on me (as seen in my own cartoons). But I'm especially excited because I just finalized getting a snowman cartoon of his into my book.

I just came back from The Saul Steinberg show at the Morgan Library. Steinberg was also a big influence on me not just for his style but the fact he was a multitasker (writer, poet, painter). Above this post is one of my tribute/parodies to the artist, a holiday card I made for my circle of friends one year. The magnificent Steinberg show closes March 4th. Actually, I found out about the show from David Byrne’s very good and informative blog, yes, the same David Byrne of the Talking Heads. He’s also a great multitasker, a renaissance man and someone I admire a lot as an artist and writer (and fan of his solo albums). Byrne’s journal goes into a great art discussion inspired by his trip to the Miami Basel Art Fair this past Christmas. It included an enjoyable slide show of the fair’s highlights where I looked for my Belgian friend’s work. My friend Manu was there showing his photography. Manu Geerinck, came to NYC with his wife Marianne Garnier, both to be freelance illustrators. But like so many other extremely talented artists, the cloudy climate of freelance illustration forced them to pursue other avenues and, of course, in the case of Manu, it proved to be a wise career move. Manu's art can be enjoyed here. I was always careful as to how encouraging or helpful I was with their illustration aspirations being aware of how long and difficult it would take to create a footing in the field. Again, these who say follow your dream are either rich or financed by someone else.

To go off on a tangent again, other artists who are a big influence on me include those who romanticize history; Caravaggio, Church, etc. Thomas Dolby (whose blog inspired me to start mine) and transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard (the world’s second funniest guy today, behind Cohen) are two quirky examples. Another artist who changed my career is an ex-classmate of mine who, back then, hated my guts. I ran into Tamar Stone, a book artist, twelve years later at a funeral and she’s had a major influence on my career ever since (and I’m not saying that because I also have a terrible crush on her today).

But back to Steinberg. It’s impossible to come away from his show not mumbling “….pure genius…” and inspired to find a blank canvas to work on but conversely think, what’s the point, I’m not worthy. With each piece in the show there was so much to learn. I mock my own style but I’m actually adhering to rules Steinberg sets forth in his work – economical lines, distortion of perspective to increase interest, etc. (there are many other laws). I’m not in any way comparing us as artists but one virtue we share is I try to constantly change my style and try different things (while keeping that quality of it being done by the same hand as to not commit freelance suicide – art directors will not hire you if they have no idea what to expect. No freelancer ever gets hired because they’re brilliantly unpredictable.). What does that add up to me personally? If I’m anything I’m consistently inconsistent.

The other reason I was at the Morgan Library was 1) to see the find the first picture ever of a snowman being made by man, an illustration from a children’s book published in 1802. An appointment at their new reading room requires much paperwork, a letter of recommendation and washing my hands in front of their staff. Two proctors watched over me as I examined the antique book in an immense room where only one visitor is allowed at a time. The beautiful engraving is currently being photographed for inclusion to my book.

And 2) to speak to the curator about having an exhibit of my snowman collection after learning a few days earlier that the New York Public Library decided to cancel my show in 2010. The reason given me was budget cuts. Months of work and my curator’s fee down the drain.

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nancy said...

i'm a little behind so i'm just reading that nypl dropped your show, which is really lousy. however, i do love the shout out to tammy - a nice little post valentine's treat.


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